All in Working Order (cont.) by Chris Wright

I turned my arms over so my hands were resting palms up and concentrated on my index fingers, willing them to curl upwards. Nothing. I focused harder, letting out a grunt with the effort. The end of the left finger lifted, just a little, followed by the other.

“Well done! It may not seem much but that’s all we could hope for so soon… Oh, wow!”

I looked at him and saw he was still looking at my hands. My left index finger was fully curled now.

“But… that wasn’t me,” I said, staring in faint horror at my finger.

He smiled. “Things are still settling, Mr Burroughs, and it shows it’s all in working order. It’s time to get you home and into some physiotherapy.”

So I was released from hospital, still pretty helpless but gradually able to do more and more, hopeful that the day I would be able to hold Matthew unaided was drawing closer.

Two weeks later, the nightmares began.

In fear, a dark-haired woman recoils from me and runs. I give chase, downstairs, through two rooms and out into a darkened garden. There, cornered, she stares pleadingly at me, mouthing words I cannot hear.

I awoke with a start.

A few days later, the dream returned, and again, until it was every night without fail. Each time it progressed a little further until finally I was grabbing hold of the trembling woman’s neck, squeezing the life from her body until she went limp.

I told Angela and Dr Frazer, but both reassured me. It was a sub-conscious rejection of the hands, but physically everything was fine. Perhaps I might benefit from some counselling?

One night the dream was different.

It’s dark and I’m standing in the nursery, looking down on Matthew as he sleeps soundly in the cot. A little smile plays across his face as he dreams. I reach down, those large, ugly hands wrapping around his little neck. My whole being orders them to pull away. But I am powerless.

Tears stream down my cheeks as I watch him struggle briefly, trying to cry out. All too quickly, he gives in. Motionless, his eyes stare straight at me.

I sit up. I’m in bed, bathed in sweat. Angela sleeps peacefully beside me.

Uncertain, I get up, hurry to the hallway and stand by the nursery door, afraid to push it open, afraid to see what lies beyond.

Angela’s hand clasps my shoulder.

Flinching, I pull away.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

Read more in Talking Without Being Interrupted, an anthology by Northants Writers’ Ink available from Amazon UK